Archive for September, 2021


Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

For twenty-five years I argued against centralised training. Jan Cameron and Bruce Cotterill were the first to impose it on any sport. Why swimming drew the short straw I have no idea. After spending $26 million trying to prove their point, swimming was also the first sport to fail. Cameron and Cotterill were blissfully unaware that “The end was contained in the beginning.” But oh, what destruction had been caused in between.  

Finally, more enlightened minds took control of Swimming New Zealand. And a year ago Tongue, Johns and Francis relegated centralised training to the rubbish heap of history and restored a decentralised club-based structure. If ever there was one giant leap for mankind this was it. Of course, what took twenty-five years to tear apart is going to take longer than one year to put right. But patience and firm management will see the new structure work. The sport will develop into a happier, safer and more successful place.

BUT, there are dark clouds in the sky ahead. Swimming is still in a fragile condition and can easily be hurt by those without the knowledge or courage to know better. Who do I mean? Well, take someone like a guy called Craig Ashby who wrote this:

I guess when organisations have no money they make it easy on themselves …….

Destroying the hopes and dreams (and pathways) of the many who might just deliver

A Quax, A Dixon , A Walker , A Loader

Most sports do not provide a plan A, let alone a plan B or C.

Mr Ashby is clearly living in a centralised past. Relying on handouts from the granny state he wants Johns or Francis to provide a centralised pathway. He does not realize we have moved on from centralised, socialist control to a decentralised American club model. The task of providing a pathway is now his responsibility. It is not Francis and Johns’ job. We wanted that power back in the hands of clubs. Now that has been done, we provide the pathways. We do not blame Swimming New Zealand for not doing something we begged them for twenty-five years to stop doing.

Incidentally it is ironic beyond belief that Ashby should use as his examples, Quax, Walker, Dixon and Loader. If ever four men rowed their own boat with no programme from Athletics New Zealand or Swimming New Zealand it was those four. Yes, we do want to go back to how they did it – making our own plans without being suffocated by the granny state. Mr. Ashby should stop spending his time complaining about Swimming New Zealand and start delivering on the responsibilities he has recently inherited.

But sadly, Ashby is not the only obstruction standing in the way of Swimming New Zealand’s new and enlightened approach. For example, try this gem from Jason Hunt:

Now we know where Steve Johns get his ignorance from. Gerrard is misinformed of what is going on or just ignoring what is happening in club land.

Gerrard and Johns are not ignoring what is happening in club land. In fact, Gerrard’s Annual Report highlighted the most important success of New Zealand swimming in Tokyo. The three best swimmers came from decentralised club programmes – Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington. Clubland, Mr Hunt, is now your responsibility. Get on and make it work. Stop blaming Gerrard and Johns for your own inadequacies. Some of us fought hard to put you in charge of your clubland. So put your big boy’s pants on and act like an adult.

Finally, there is someone called Kiwi Swimming who is also hell-bent on dragging swimming back to the 1990s. For example, he or she, recently said this:

This is being overseen and observed by Swimming NZ and Swimming Welllington [sic], who are doing nothing at all about it except either ignoring or slagging off people who complain.

 Here again we have a Johnny-come-lately who wants Swimming New Zealand to take up arms and storm down the Desert Road to fix some club problem in Wellington. Again, it is worth reminding Kiwi Swimming that for twenty-five years we pleaded for Swimming New Zealand to stay away from our local affairs. The people who need to sort out a club problem in Wellington are the people of Wellington. That’s what decentralisation means. My advice to Kiwi Swimming is to stop being a baby dashing off to mummy in Antares Place every time things get a bit tough.

For what it’s worth, I hope dearly that Johns and Francis have the courage to stick to their guns and avoid the Ashby, Hunt and Kiwi Swimming dark clouds.         


Monday, September 13th, 2021

One or two commentators are tearing into Swimming New Zealand President Dave Gerrard’s Annual Report. One commentator went as far as to accuse Gerrard of being either deluded, ignorant or lying. Their disagreement involved the member’s protection policy. Gerrard’s view was that the Swimming New Zealand Board placed an “unequivocal priority” on member’s protection “and that any form of physical or mental abuse is totally unacceptable. Open channels of communication are available through our member protection officer, with reassurance that every voice will be heard.”

The commentator on the other hand believes, quote “that most of the voices that are “heard” are ignored, and safety is not a priority. There is little substantive emphasis on member, and the channels are certainly not “open”. Physical and mental abuse – as well as verbal abuse is accepted, and he is deluded if he believes otherwise.”

Now this is a subject I happen to know quite a bit about. Members will know from the Swimming New Zealand Annual Report’s Financial Statements that a provision of $56,000 has been set aside to conclude a dispute I have with Swimming New Zealand on the issue of member’s protection. Some members may also remember I was critical of Gerrard in Swimwatch when he became President and my member’s protection dispute was at its height.

But that is all three years ago. Since then, the dispute has wound its way through the Privacy Commissioner and a Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing. Swimming New Zealand and I are now waiting for the Tribunal’s decision. By any standards you learn a lot about each other through a process like that. The good the bad and the ugly.

And so, what has been my impression, my opinion of Swimming New Zealand through the last three years when we have been embroiled in this legal to and fro and Gerrard has been President.

First: Swimming New Zealand has changed. Gerrard is absolutely right about that. The move away from a centralised training dictatorship has made a difference. The decentralised structure has contributed greatly to swimming becoming a better, safer and more inclusive place to play. A comparison with what Swimming New Zealand once was, is night and day.

Second: management changes have made a difference. The disappearance of Bruce Cotterill and people like Tongue, Johns and Francis being free to express their opinions instead of reflecting only what Cotterill wanted, has made a huge difference. In my experience these are good people who along with me went through a dark and bad period in swimming. The sport is in a brighter and better place, managed in a bright and better way.

Third: for three years now I have argued and debated, with Swimming New Zealand’s legal team of Michael Smyth and Katherine Dalziel. Occasionally, through ignorance of the finer points of “court room” behaviour I have overstepped proper procedures. However, through it all, I was treated with respect and professionalism. I, of course have no idea what advice these two lawyers were giving Swimming New Zealand. But whatever it was, I have no doubt it would have been good, honest and fair. In my view Swimming New Zealand were well represented and I think that too has made a difference to the organisation’s view of member protection.

Fourth: I believe there is a better understanding now that member protection is wider than simply protecting teenagers from out-of-control administrators or coaches. Coaches too are members and quite frequently need help. The easiest thing in the world is for some disgruntled parent to falsely accuse a coach and ruin his or her life. This, other side, of member protection is better recognised now.

Fifth: in spite of what I said on Swimwatch three years ago, Gerrard has been President of Swimming New Zealand while all these good things have happened. Whatever the outcome of the Tribunal hearing the changes to Swimming New Zealand have been huge. I suspect many members have no idea of their significance. As I said before – night and day. And so, believe it or not, my vote goes with Gerrard. He was there for three valuable years of change and improvement. And for that he deserves the thanks of us all.

PS: Perhaps the last thing Gerrard wants is my approval. However, as the American’s say, “There you go.” Oh, and by the way, he was a bloody good swimmer. Although I have no idea why anyone would choose the 200 meters butterfly. As Alison says, it’s a bit like choosing the steeplechase when there is a perfectly good and flat track to run on.       


Thursday, September 9th, 2021

This afternoon I was about to start writing a Swimwatch post on Perenara’s moaning and groaning about how hard done by he was playing rugby in Japan. The whole thing was pathetic. What a baby.

However, I had barely begun when Facebook alerted me to a new post. Guess what? The new post had been written by Alison about the same Perenara meltdown. Here is what she had to say, together with comments from others with opinions on Perenara’s juvenile tirade.

Alison Wright 

OK family and friends – it’s time for a rant. TJ Perenara is reported in Stuff as having had “dark moments” while in Japan. He was away from his family etc. He was away for a few short months – with access to phone, email, video chats etc, undoubtedly living in good accommodation provided by his rugby club. His New Zealand-based family wasn’t living in lockdown.

Over the past 18 months I have heard a stream of moans from sports people about how hard these 18 months have been while they’ve had to be separated from family, friends etc.

Well, I have heard enough of their moaning. With a few exceptions they are moaning from extremely privileged positions. Their moans remind me of my grandparents who emigrated to New Zealand around 100 years ago. They left family and friends behind with no hope of ever seeing or speaking to them again. David’s grandparents were fortunate to make a return trip to Scotland in the 1950s, but they were an exception. My mother emigrated to New Zealand in 1933 with little expectation of ever seeing her Shetland family again. She was lucky, she did make return trips to Shetland in 1976 and 1981.

My father sailed from New Zealand in a troop ship in 1940 with no idea of when, or even if, he would return to New Zealand. He was away until March 1944, had a few months back in NZ and then returned to Europe until early 1945. He and my mother had no internet for emails, video chats etc. All they could do was write letters, some of which they didn’t receive as the letters found their way to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. They didn’t moan about it – it was the way it was, and they got on with it.

In the 50 years David & I have been married there have been lengthy times apart. For some months during the first year we were married, David flew to Christchurch each Monday morning and returned to Wellington each Friday evening – his work required that and that was what was done. My athletics career entailed coming from the UK to NZ each (NZ) summer. I would be away for a minimum of 2 months, sometimes longer. When David got a job as a swim coach in the US Virgin Islands in 2003, I didn’t see him for a year. The internet was improving but there was still no Facebook chat etc. He went to Jeddah for almost a year which was a challenge because the internet in Saudi Arabia was ruled by the Saudi government and therefore could be sketchy. We relished what communication we could get and made the best of it.

Some of you are like me in that we have daughters, sons, grandchildren who live overseas. None of us know when we’ll see them face-to-face again. I hope it won’t be too long before Jane and I can do our re-enactment of the opening credits of “Love Actually” again. But in the meantime, we treasure the daily communication of Facebook chat, Whatsapp and so on.

So, TJ Perenara and all the others out there moaning about your hard lot in life – wake up, read some history of emigration and the hardships the early settlers (whether they came in a waka, a sailing ship or a steamship) encountered and conquered and above all – count your blessings.


Absolutely with you 100%. Well written and presented. Btw : High Performance/Olympian – Athletes – are well paid and or compensation is paid for medals.


Fantastic. This should be shared widely.


Well said cuz xxx


I really do worry about how emotionally and psychologically fragile the more recent generations appear to be. I am regularly shocked at how infantilised, dependent and indulged the kids at my school are: today I had to ring parents about a year 11 student who was not at school. I asked if she was at home because she was unwell. Her mother said ‘Well, no. She refused to go to school today. It was her decision to start school again next week’. I was very tempted to use that exact explanation in the formal comms with the teaching staff regarding school attendance. Because heaven forfend that a parent should tell their kid to get themselves to school or live with the consequences!  Because the little dears are not allowed to use their mobiles at school, I have to sit there and watch high school students use the office phone to ring their mum to ask them to tell their dad to leave work at lunchtime, drop by the house to pick up the sports gear the kid forgot to bring to school… and if they don’t have the gear they won’t be allowed to play. And the mums tell the dads. And the dads go home at lunchtime and get the gear and drop it at the school office for Jorja or Porsha to collect. Forget the idea of my dad driving home then over to Wellington East to drop off my gym kit. Forget the very idea of me asking my mother to suggest that he do so. The women at the school office would have made me spend lunchtime outside the principal’s office if I had been stupid enough to even think of asking to use the phone for such a reason! It seems these days that not only can we not expect parents to establish and maintain reasonable expectations; even schools no longer expect young adults to be accountable for their own behaviour, belongings and responsibilities. I imagine employers receiving complaints from their young employees because they didn’t get paid simply because it was their decision not to go to work for a couple of days! 


Thank you for taking the time to give us your thoughts.

I’ve always said, that sportspeople have choices, and if they choose to be away from family for their team/sport then when the going gets ‘tough’ they need to remind themselves it was their decision.

So many of us, like you say, have family living overseas and we long to give them a hug and chew the fat but are constricted by current circumstances. Most of us, by the way are not not on a salary during our times of separation, nor did we have access to psychologists.

While I can appreciate just how hard it is to reach the top of a sport I would have thought that there would be many times hard decisions had to be made while getting there. Separation being one of them. Enough rant


Yes, maybe it’s sometimes lonely and difficult, but it was a choice and a privileged one, at that. On average, I’ve seen you maybe once every two years since I moved abroad. That was a choice we all made knowing this was probably going to be the case. You just get on with it.

Contrast this also with people in countries like the UK who, last year, went many more months without seeing their loved ones (and some never saw them again) after having made no such choice – it was forced on t


I go along with all that you say Alison. These people make a choice, it isn’t forced upon them and it isn’t a life time we are talking about.


Monday, September 6th, 2021

New Zealand has earned a proud sporting reputation. For one hundred years men and women have left New Zealand to compete in a dozen different sports. In the 1970s my wife was one of those. Each year she ran in London, Stockholm, West Berlin, Zurich, Cologne, Brussels, Sydney and many other world cities.

On one of those trips, I was talking to the meet promoter in Zurich. He told me how much he enjoyed New Zealand athletes competing in his event.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well” he said, “with New Zealanders, you can count on two things. One, they will always deliver the best they can on the night. And two, whatever financial deal is done before the meet, they will honour when it’s time to be paid. If they break a world record or underperform, the deal will stand. Athletes from many other countries come to the payment office and want to renegotiate. New Zealanders, you can trust them. They are honest.”

Many fine men and women built that reputation. Lovelock was known throughout the world for his quiet honesty. The last thing you would ever call Danyon Loader or Gary Hurring or their coaches is big heads. I doubt that Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, John Davies, Barry Magee, Bill Baillie or their coach had an arrogant bone between them. And certainly, John Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon were impeccable ambassadors of their home values. And there were women too who also forged New Zealand’s reputation. The 1970s women who changed athletic history. Anne Audain, Lorraine Moller, Barbara Moore, Allison Roe, Allison Wright, Heather Thompson (Matthews) cleared a path of impeccable honesty and hard work. And nowhere has there been a more honest coach than Arch Jelley.

But of course, it is not just athletics and swimming that has built New Zealand’s proud reputation. Rugby, soccer, squash, rowing, triathlon have been represented by athletes who have done their nation proud. And Lisa Carrington and Caitlin Regal are both ambassadors in the finest tradition of all who have gone before.

I guess the point is New Zealand’s reputation has been hard won. Through winter nights around the Waitakere Ranges, through pouring rain on Lake Pupuke, in less than adequate accommodation somewhere in Europe, New Zealanders have done us proud.

Consequently, when I see someone fail to honour the reputation they have inherited, it makes my blood boil. I have seen what it took to build. No one should cause it damage and escape unscathed. But that is what happened on Sunday night.

Most New Zealanders will have seen Jordie Barrett mistimed catch that ended up with his sprigs scrapping down the face of the Australian challenger. But Jordie Barrett is not the problem. Sure, his kick was stupid. Sure, it deserves censure. And I have no doubt it was not intentional. It was a sorry and sad accident. It’s time to front up, accept the consequences and move on. It’s time to act like the honest athletes that you now follow.

No, the problem here is Jordie Barrett’s coach, Ian Foster. I hear he intends to appeal any punishment. In fact, Prime News reported tonight that it was Jordie Barrett’s shoe that hit the Australian. The problem with that report is Jordie Barrett’s foot was inside the shoe. And it didn’t just hit the Australian, his sprigs ran down the side of his face. On Queen Street that would earn jail time deliberate or not.

No, in my opinion Ian Foster has let his country and his sport down. This was time to front up and accept the consequences of a dumb mistake. This was time to act with honour. Instead, Foster squirms and wriggles. He wants Jordie Barrett to play next week and will damage his country to save his own hide.

What has he taught every junior rugby player in the country? The lesson is kick someone in the head with your sprigs and find a coach to argue it was really nothing, just an errant shoe. What does his example mean to young athletes from other sports? It means sneak in an extra butterfly kick on to your breaststroke start. It means jump on your triathlon bike a meter before the transition line. It means renegotiating your deal with the promoter after a good performance. It means cheat but look for a way out.

In my opinion, Foster’s decision makes him unfit to be the All Blacks’ coach, unfit to be involved in any sport at any level. If he thinks so little of the importance of integrity, he deserves to be sent back to whence he came, Hamilton.

I note that in a Stuff report dated December 11, 2019, Foster announced he was going to “reinvent himself”. “I need to take my own ideas. There’s a massive opportunity for us to go forward with an open mind. Now is the time for me to show what I have. That I’m innovative and to show that we have that mana that we feel we might have lost on the field,” he added.

All those fine words became so much garbage on Sunday night. If that’s your idea of innovative mana, Mr. Foster, do not do it in my country and certainly do not do it at the expense of the fine men and women who built this little country’s reputation. Not even the All Blacks’ coach, especially not the All Blacks’ coach, is allowed to do that.       


Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Many readers will have been raised in families where some subjects were not discussed. For example, religion, sex, politics and money were most often banned. That was never the case in my home. Nothing was off limits. The more sensitive the subject, the more vigorous the debate.

As the years have passed, I have become more cautious. The subject of this Swimwatch post, Sophie Pascoe, certainly requires extreme caution. Why? Because after these Paralympic Games Pascoe is a sacred icon. In the eyes of Television New Zealand Pascoe has risen to heights above those achieved by Lydia Ko. A few weeks ago, I thought that was impossible.

And so, putting to one side the effusive adulation and misinformation peddled by TVNZ what is Pascoe’s Tokyo Paralympic reality? How would a rational critic score her performance. New Zealand was not able to rely on TVNZ or the NZ Herald for that sort of sanity. Perhaps we can help them out.


Considering just the events Pascoe swam in Tokyo what has her history been at each Olympic competition? The table below tells that story.

Event Beijing London Rio Tokyo
100 Breaststroke 1.22.58 1.18.38 Did Not Swim 1.20.32
100 Backstroke 1.10.57 1.06.69 1.07.04 1.11.15
200 Medley 2.35.21 2.25.65 2.24.90 2.32.73
100 Freestyle 1.05.90 1.00.89 59.85 1.02.37
100 Butterfly 1.10.53 1.04.43 1.02.65 1.09.31

Comparing Rio and Tokyo then Pascoe was a huge 6.5% slower in Tokyo than she was five years ago in Rio. So how did she still win two gold medals, a silver and a bronze? The answer, I suspect, is that between Paralympics she changed her disability category from S10 to the slower S9 classification. The table below attempts to test this by showing the place Pascoe would have achieved if her classification had not changed and she had continued to swim in the same para category (S10 or in breaststroke SB9) as she had for the previous 12 years and 3 previous Olympic Games.


Event Beijing London Rio Tokyo S10
100 Breaststroke 1st 2nd DNS 7th
100 Backstroke 1st 2nd 1st 6th
200 Medley 1st 1st 1st 6th
100 Freestyle 9th 1st 2nd 8th
100 Butterfly 2nd 1st 1st 5th

I have very little understanding of the para classification process. It seems to be shrouded in mystery and hidden behind the cloak of confidential medical information. Did Pascoe’s disability suddenly get worse? Were the criteria changed? After three Paralympic Games why was Pascoe unexplainably allowed to race against slower competition? To properly evaluate her performance, we need to understand the answers to these questions.

Why? Because an apples-to-apples comparison between Pascoe’s performance in Tokyo and Rio appears to be that she swam 6.5% slower than she did five years ago and if she had swum against the same competition as she had in three previous Paralympic Games, Pascoe would be flying home with no medals at all. Her best swim would have been 5th in the 100m butterfly.

It seems like the classification process could do with a dose of fresh air. From a layman’s point of view, it seems to come up with some odd results. For example, many of the women Pascoe was competing against in her new slower S9 category had lost an arm. Pascoe has lost the effective use of a leg. Every swim coach in the world knows good swimmers achieve around 20% of their propulsion from their kick and 80% from their arms. That means, doesn’t it, that Pascoe’s competition in Tokyo has lost half of 80% of their propulsion (40%) and Pascoe has lost half of 20% of her propulsion (10%). Why is a loss of 40% having to compete with a loss of only 10%? Or as is highly likely, is there something I don’t understand.

Which brings us to the TVNZ’s decision to broadcast misinformation. Some would call it fake news. In discussing Pascoe’s results the TV1 journalist said Pascoe had just won another medal in her S9 classification for her fourth Olympic Games. That was not true. Tokyo was the first time (apart from breaststroke) Pascoe has swum S9. At all the previous Games Pascoe has swum in the faster S10 category. TVNZ has a responsibility to accuracy. In its enthusiasm to worship, it failed to meet that responsibility on this occasion.

It would be a shocking injustice to suggest that Sophie Pascoe’s swimming career is anything else but fantastic and remarkable. I have watched in stunned amazement her swim at competitions and at training. Competing in the NZ Open Championships she has displayed talent, determination, and class beyond belief. She is an icon in New Zealand sporting history.

But was her record in Tokyo part of that stellar career. Or was it something less? Was it an old boxer’s one fight too many? And why does it matter? After all I’m sure when the reclassification was applied for all the rules were honestly followed. But was a mistake made? I don’t know. There is a guy playing grand slam tennis just now who rightly says his frequent and extended trips to the toilet comply with the rules. But are they right? Andy Murray doesn’t think so. I was at the Sydney Aquatic Centre the night an Australian swimmer came within a whisker of breaking the Australian and World backstroke record by pulling himself along the lane line. At the time that too was legal. But FINA introduced a rule banning the practice. Is it time TVNZ looked rationally at Pascoe’s performance in Tokyo and explained it to New Zealand without the emotional hype that has coloured and maybe distorted their reporting during the meet?      

Honesty matters because large amounts of prize money and sponsorship are paid on the basis of medals – not on the quality of performance. Medals and quality of performance are not always the same thing. In my opinion, and I am not an expert on para swimming, there are questions over how well Pascoe swam in Tokyo that do need to be clearly and unemotionally explained. Comparisons with her earlier career need to be accurate and honest.